Dean Parisot interview

Bill & Ted Face the Music is a very kind-hearted movie. There’s not a single mean-spirited bone in its body. With its unironic heroes, its passion for music, and most importantly, the love between best friends and family, Bill & Ted Face the Music appreciates the best in life.

Whatever obstacles came in the way of the sequel, director Dean Parisot and everyone involved kept going. Parisot, known most famously for the classic Galaxy Quest, delivered a pure sequel with its heart in such the right place. The director, an NYU graduate who won an Oscar for best live-action short film in 1988, told us why he never gave up on Bill & Ted 3 and more.

You’ve talked before about how daunting this movie was. What was most daunting about Bill & Ted Face the Music?

I think the daunting thing was just contemporizing it, because it’s been 29 years. A lot of things have changed, both in film language, even in how comedies are made with the sense of humor of this generation. A lot has changed, so it was trying to strike a balance, which is always difficult. Luckily, these guys are all brilliant and talented filmmakers themselves, and it was a group effort in a lot of ways, trying to find that balancing act. Hopefully, we found it.

What didn’t need modernization? What still fits today about Bill & Ted?

The thing that you have to hold onto is their friendship is everything, and I think also their ludicrous optimism. They have a very short turnaround time when they run into problems. They can solve them almost immediately with the most ridiculous answers. That you couldn’t change, and I think their goodwill. On top of that, they’re now middle-aged. They kind of failed at what their destiny was supposed to be, as it was defined by them as a kid. It’s very typical of all of us universally, I think, that we find ourselves as teenagers and then middle age feeling regret, “Did we really pull that off or not? It doesn’t seem like it.”

Was this always the story? You’ve been working on this since 2012, so did the story evolve much from then?

It did evolve, yeah. As a team, we all had various input across, actually, 11 years. I would say the idea didn’t change, and the characters in it didn’t really change. I think we were trying to make the adventure play better, and I think we were also adapting to our budget situation and everything else. So it did change, but not substantially. The idea is the same, and it’s to [screenwriters] Ed and Chris‘ credit because they came up with this without anybody asking them or any fan’s input at all. They just decided, “You know what? We think it’d be really fun to tell their story now.” They wrote it on spec. That means everybody got attached and suffered through it with no payment whatsoever for the last 11 years.

Obviously, it was a long road getting this movie made, but what kept you guys going and determined to make the movie?

For me, I can’t speak for everybody else, but to me, it’s those two characters. Also, the more divisive we got as a society, the more I wanted to make it. So unfortunately, we seem to have reached a place where it’s even more appropriate, but horribly so. I think it’s kind of a genre unto itself, too. It doesn’t really fit easily into a template. “Be excellent to each other.” I think that’s fairly universal, isn’t it?

How happy would you be if that line became a big part of pop culture again?

Absolutely. I mean, it’s a reason to do it. As human beings, we need to be reminded all the time. So, why not a ridiculous comedy?

What was really important to Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter about how Bill & Ted might’ve grown or not grown?

Really, those characters are the result of those two guys, really working hard to think it through and to create those characters again but middle-aged. That’s a difficult thing for an actor. We all talked about this, but they were the ones that did it. They really held onto the essence of Bill and Ted, to everything that I love about those characters, and then also allowed them to be middle-aged. It’s a very difficult thing. It seems easy and effortless, but it’s really not. They’re quite gifted, so it was a pleasure to just watch them try to do this. I did my best to get out of the way.

Bill and Ted Face the Music

As middle-aged men, how else did you want to challenge Bill & Ted? 

Well, we all defined ourselves, I think, most of us, when we’re teenagers, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this when I grow up.” And that moment where Ted says, “I don’t think I could do it anymore,” that is poignant for somebody my age, especially because it’s like, I wanted to make The Godfather, you know? Or fill in a couple of other movies. You take what life hands you, and you try and do the best you can with it. I thought it was a poignant moment for them, and that’s more drama than it is comedy, and I believe you can have both at the same time. In fact, that’s what gets me involved in the story, watching everything happen at the same time. I’m watching tragedy, and I’m watching comedy. The first two movies were a little bit lighter because they could be because they were young teenagers. This one is a little, I don’t know, I’m reluctant to say, “darker.” It’s not really. It’s more mature.

How surreal was day one of shooting and watching them back in character? 

It was, it was surreal. Really, the second they came out and started, it was like, “Oh, this is great.” I mean, I heard that through the voices, but all of a sudden there’s a team. I really loved the cast we put together so much, and everybody was just working off everybody. It was really quite fun actually, even though it was 100 degrees.

New Orleans? 

Yeah. It was summer.

Brutal.

Go figure. I would say that the thing that surprised me is I’m calling up incredibly talented and expensive film professionals to see is there any chance they would come and work for half their salary, and everyone says yes. So, there’s so much goodwill, it was surprising to me that, in New Orleans as well, goodwill from everybody.

What was your last day of filming Bill and Ted like? 

We were supposed to shoot half a day, but we kept improvising, and no one wanted to go home. I said, “We got to wrap.” And everyone goes, “No, don’t worry about it. Let’s do one more. Let’s do one more.” And they kept improvising, and it was hysterical. That last full take was pure improv. They were fantastic.

Then after it was over, everybody was hugging and kissing. It was a unique shoot, with so much goodwill. Movies are very difficult. People are under pressure, egos can go off, everything else. That wasn’t the case here. Everybody wanted to be there, and everybody was doing everything they could to make it happen. So it almost sounds like a cliche, because you hear it a lot in these interviews, but literally, I had a blast doing this movie. I had a blast doing Galaxy Quest 25 years ago. too. They were comparable in their goodwill and fun that we all had.

[Warning: spoilers ahead]

bill and ted face the music trailer

I have to ask: what is it like directing Dave Grohl?

Well, you know what? This is weird. We loved just the sound of the words, “Dave Grohl,” coming out of Bill and Ted. So we kept repeating it all the time on the set, “Dave Grohl.” It just sounded great. He’s a really funny, exuberant guy, right? He’s perfect for a Bill and Ted movie. We only did four or five takes with him. He was just hysterical, and I don’t know, it just seemed right. I can’t tell you why. I mean, he’s a brilliant musician, and it’s great to have him in the movie. It makes perfect sense from a music standpoint to have him there. But also, he has a fun persona. He’s funny.

Well, I think just like Bill & Ted, Dave Grohl is just one of those guys who makes people happy. 

Yeah. That’s the way we felt. It’s like, “Oh, Dave Grohl’s here. Cool. Wow, Dave Grohl.”

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Bill and Ted Face the Music is available on VOD now.

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